Santa Cruz County History - Executive Order 9066 and the Residents of Santa Cruz County

Full Text Newspaper ArticleWatsonville Register-Pajaronian. June 7, 1945. p. 8


by PETER EDSON NEA Service Staff Correspondent

SAN FRANCISCO - With some 40,000 to 45,000 native born Americans of Japanese extraction still to be released from War Relocation authority centers in the west, the problem of refitting these U.S. citizens into civilian life is being looked on with growing concern. They have perfectly good legal and constitutional rights, yet because the United States is still at war with Japan there are some elements of the population who seem to believe that anyone of Japanese ancestry must be kicked around.

In the first five months of 1945 there have been 70 "incidents" of threats or terrorism against Japanese-Americans who have attempted to return to their pre-war homes after being released from War Relocation authority centers. Sixty-five of the incidents have been in California.

Nineteen of these cases have involved shootings. Ninety per cent of the shootings have been in four central California counties - Merced, Fresno, Madeira and Tulare.

None of the shootings have been fatal but there have been several near misses, an attempted dynamiting, several cases of setting fire to houses in which the Japanese-Americans were living, labor disturbances in which men refused to work alongside descendants of Japanese, and a number of visits by local citizens who have threatened bodily harm to the Japanese-Americans if they remained in the areas where they formerly lived or now wished to take up residence.

The significant thing about all these incidents is that there have been no convictions of the offenders. In the few cases that have been brought to trial the accused have been set free or given suspended sentences.

To W.R. Cozzens, deputy director of the War Relocation authority in charge of its eastern operations throughout the war, these incidents are looked upon as the possible beginning of what he calls, "local option on citizenship."

Cozzens himself is a native of California and probably the most experienced of all WRA officials in dealing with the problems of American citizens of Japanese extraction. So there is no long-distance, social workers' mollycoddling in his point of view.

In themselves the 70 incidents may not be considered terribly important, says Cozzens, but if this kind of terrorism is allowed to go unchecked, it can easily lead to excesses.

Hitler got his start, Cozzens points out, by sanctioning abuses against one group of native-born German citizens. First they were deprived of their citizenship and denied its rights. Then there was terrorism against them and confiscation of their property. These abuses grew until they became the atrocities committed against the Poles, the Dutch and all the German-enslaved people of central Europe.

The time to check such violation of the rights of citizenship is obviously before the practice gets out of hand. None of the victims of the 70 incidents has been a Japanese citizen that could in any way be classified as an alien enemy. Some have actually been discharged U.S. servicemen. All have been American-born citizens who happen to have had Japanese ancestors.

Analysis of the motivation behind the 70 incidents reveals several curious factors. Only a few of the acts of terrorism have been commited by outright hoodlums, though such incidents have been perhaps the worst. In a majority of the cases there has been a motive of selfish economic gain, the perpetrators being other American citizens who have been profiting by war-time operation of land or property belonging to the Japanese-Americans while the owners were detained in War Relocation centers. As soon as the rightful owners return to reclaim and resume possession of their property or their jobs the trouble begins to brew.

Another curious fact is that there appears to be little real resentment against the people coming from the relocation centers by the families of servicemen or by the servicemen themselves. American soldiers and marines who have been taught and have natural reasons to hate and kill all Japanese might be expected to be hostile towards Japanese-American civilians, but aren't. The reason is simply that over 10,000 of these American born citizens of Japanese extraction have made combat records in Italy and France and in the army intelligence services in the Pacific of which any American soldier or sailor who knows the facts can well be proud.

Copyrighted by the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. Reproduced by permission.